For as long as he can remember, Ryan McCray was fascinated with technology. As a teenager, he served as the president of his high school’s electronics club and worked at Radio Shack before earning a bachelor’s degree in electronic media, an associate’s degree in computer programming and a master’s in business administration.
For the last 20 years, McCray’s career path followed his interests, with jobs ranging from data analysis and technical support to aircraft maintenance as an Air Force Reservist. But his long-term goal, dating back to high school, was to become an intellectual property attorney.
In 2018, McCray learned about Case Western Reserve University School of Law’s Masters in Patent Practice (MPP) program, the first of its kind in Ohio and one of only a handful in the nation.
The program prepares students with undergraduate degrees in engineering, computer science and physical or biological sciences to become patent agents – a career with a national median income of $ 121,663 in 2019 and an average salary of $100,368 here in Cleveland, Ohio.
The degree is an alternative for students who want to utilize their technical training to enter a field with growing demand. Because of the greater scientific expertise and the ability to prepare, file and prosecute patent applications, patent agents are needed at many law firms and corporate legal departments.
The program was a perfect fit for McCray, not only for the opportunities the degree would open up to him but also for its length. Rather than pursue a JD degree over three years, the MPP program is designed for working professionals to graduate in just one.
“My career has taken an unconventional route and I’ve had plenty of job diversity, but the one thing that has always been consistent is my interest in working in technology,” said McCray. “The Masters in Patent Practice program was the perfect opportunity for me to get my foot in the door. That the degree only takes a year to complete made it even better.”
“The classes were an immersive experience,” said McCray continued. “Professor Craig Nard literally wrote the textbook on patent preparation and prosecution. In my intellectual property management and commercialization class, we separated into teams and spent the semester simulating the creation of a startup business, from developing a prototype to making an investment pitch. My experiences in the classroom gave me an understanding of the entrepreneurial ecosystem that I’d be joining.”
After graduating in 2019, McCray joined Amin, Turocy & Watson, LLP, a full-service, medium-sized IP boutique that represents Fortune 100/500 companies as well as startups and individuals. In his new role, McCray works with automotive, aviation and large technology companies, helping to prepare and prosecute patents in artificial intelligence, machine learning and quantum computing.
And perhaps for the first time in his career, McCray has found where he belongs.
“I feel like I’ve made my last career change,” said McCray. “This degree helped me find my calling, allowing me to be a part of bringing the technology of the future to the market. It’s been a long road to get where I am, but I couldn’t be happier.”